Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Discover Why Plague Is So Lethal

Date:
May 5, 2008
Source:
Society for General Microbiology
Summary:
Bacteria that cause the bubonic plague may be more virulent than their close relatives because of a single genetic mutation, according to research published in the May issue of the journal Microbiology.

Yersinia pestis, direct fluorescent antibody stain (DFA), at 200x magnification.
Credit: CDC / Courtesy of Larry Stauffer, Oregon State Public Health Laboratory

Bacteria that cause the bubonic plague may be more virulent than their close relatives because of a single genetic mutation, according to research published in the May issue of the journal Microbiology.

"The plague bacterium Yersinia pestis needs calcium in order to grow at body temperature. When there is no calcium available, it produces a large amount of an amino acid called aspartic acid," said Professor Brubaker from the University of Chicago, USA. "We found that this is because Y. pestis is missing an important enzyme."

Bubonic plague has killed over 200 million people during the course of history and is thus the most devastating acute infectious disease known to man. Despite this, we are still uncertain about the molecular basis of its extraordinary virulence.

"Y. pestis evolved from its ancestor Y. pseudotuberculosis within the last 20,000 years, suggesting its high lethality reflects only a few genetic changes. We discovered that a single mutation in the genome of Y. pestis means the enzyme aspartase is not produced," said Professor Brubaker.

Aspartase is present in almost all bacteria but it is curiously absent in many pathogenic types. These include mycobacteria that are pathogenic to man, Francisella tularensis and rickettsiae (both of which cause diseases transmitted to humans via insects). "This suggests that the absence of aspartase may contribute to serious disease," said Professor Brubaker.

Aspartase digests aspartic acid. Because Y. pestis doesn't have the enzyme, it produces much more aspartic acid than is required by the person infected. This may cause an imbalance to the host amino acid pools. "If this is the case then we might be able to reduce the death rates of these diseases by developing a treatment that removes some of the extra aspartic acid," said Professor Brubaker.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for General Microbiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society for General Microbiology. "Scientists Discover Why Plague Is So Lethal." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080504194238.htm>.
Society for General Microbiology. (2008, May 5). Scientists Discover Why Plague Is So Lethal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080504194238.htm
Society for General Microbiology. "Scientists Discover Why Plague Is So Lethal." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080504194238.htm (accessed April 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) Scientists say for the extremely elderly, their stem cells might reach a state of exhaustion. This could limit one's life span. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Kangaroo Rescued from Swimming Pool

Raw: Kangaroo Rescued from Swimming Pool

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A kangaroo was saved from drowning in a backyard suburban swimming pool in Australia's Victoria state on Thursday. Australian broadcaster Channel 7 showed footage of the kangaroo struggling to get out of the pool. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) A new study says marijuana use could lead to serious heart-related complications. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins